Editorial: Basalt deserves credit for relocations
The town of Basalt has captured lots of attention over the past few weeks while starting to relocate residents of the Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park.
One group of critics contends that the town shouldn’t pay any public money for residents forced to leave. The town’s only obligation as a landlord is to give 60 days of notice to move out.
Other critics contend that the town isn’t doing enough for the residents, who are mostly low-income Hispanics. They say the town should provide an alternative site where the Pan and Fork residents can locate en masse.
A Denver-based advocacy group called the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition is monitoring the negotiations between the residents and the town.
Here’s our take: The town was in a tough spot. Studies commissioned by the town and performed by consultants years ago concluded that the Pan and Fork is in the floodplain and facing high risk if a major flood hits the midvalley. Once armed with that information, the town had little choice but to act. The question was, what was the proper course of action to take?
We believe that town officials deserve accolades for producing cash settlements for the residents and aiding those who need help finding alternative housing. Imagine how troubling it would be to find out you have to leave your residence when so few affordable rental options exist in the Roaring Fork Valley.
The payments are designed to help residents with down payments or deposits on alternative housing they buy or rent. The town has been more generous than most landlords when leveling affordable housing.
The first phase of the relocation effort has focused on occupants of 11 trailers at the Pan and Fork. There are a total of 38 trailer spaces. One was vacant, and two trailers were abandoned. That means the town will work with occupants of 35 mobile homes. That appears to be a daunting challenge, given it is currently in negotiations with less than one-third of the residents. We expect the town to deal in an equitable way with those residents who come later in the process — when finding alternative housing gets more difficult.
There is a misperception that the town government had an obligation to find replacement housing for 100 percent of the residents of the Pan and Fork. The town had a replacement-housing rule in place — but it did not require help for the current residents. The rule said all units must be replaced. Even if the town hadn’t altered it, the rule wouldn’t have helped the Pan and Fork residents. The town’s current course of action is more generous — even if it isn’t generous enough for some onlookers.
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Certainly there is no replacing the voice Paul Andersen brought to the Times’ op-ed pages. For the next year, though, we’re going to use the Monday spot to bring some of the voices of our newsroom to these pages.